April 2012's President Column
Law Day and Volunteering
By: Robert C. Dortch, Jr.
One of the many things I have enjoyed this year as President is the opportunity to meet and talk with attorneys outside the courtroom or conference room or on the phone advocating as we argue for our respective clients. It's unfortunate that we do not take advantage as often as we can of the opportunities to socialize and network outside the office. Some ask "why do I want to spend my time outside the office with attorneys; I work with them all week long?" Well, if you attended the Centennial Gala at the Westin, undoubtedly you had a great experience in the midst of hundreds of MCB members and were thoroughly entertained by our very own Mecklenburg Bar Revue. And there are many more socializing and networking opportunities out there. I've highlighted a few of those opportunities below. I encourage you to attend and participate in as many as you can.
As part of our Centennial celebration, April has been designated to recognize and celebrate community service. The Bar's web site, www.MeckBar.org, lists several volunteer opportunities for lawyers and their families to help in the community and let our friends and neighbors get to know who we are. Visit www.MeckBar.org, click on "Get Involved" and then click on "Celebration of Community Service - Get Involved." You'll see a variety of wide-ranging volunteer opportunities. You can volunteer to speak to Charlotte-Mecklenburg School students taking civics classes about our legal system and what it's like to be a lawyer. You can volunteer to help at local soup kitchens. You can help out at the courthouse by volunteering at Larry King's Clubhouse (not that Larry King) and help some young children whose parents are at the courthouse. If those opportunities dont energize you to participate, come up with your own volunteer activity and draft your team to help out. We want to see the community flooded with lawyer volunteers. We're much more than the fictionalized versions of attorneys our friends and neighbors watch on television.
Another opportunity to network and socialize with your MCB members outside the courtroom or conference room presents itself at 3:45 p.m., April 26 at the Blake Hotel at our spring swearing-in ceremony. About 300 people took the February bar exam, and many of them will be in Charlotte to be sworn-in. Visit www.MeckBar.org, click on "Calendar" and then on "Bar Wide Activities" for additional details. Those of you that have attended swearing-in ceremonies appreciate that our local state and federal judges preside over the ceremony. Our local Bar does a good job of supporting the event and turning out in big numbers. It is important that we, as the local Bar, continue to show our support of the new admittees and their families by being there at the ceremony to welcome them to the Bar and the practice of law. After the ceremony there is a great reception with food and drink and another opportunity to meet and socialize with our judges and fellow Bar members. Many, if not all, of these new North Carolina attorneys will need mentors, whether they know it or not. If you are looking for another volunteer opportunity, visit www.MeckBar.org, click on "Get Involved" and then click on "Linking Lawyers -- Mentoring." The chances are that you will be paired with a young attorney eager for your sage guidance and assistance as he or she starts out in his or her new profession. It's a great way to give back and help the profession.
Law Day is around the corner -- May 1. According to the ABA, "President Dwight Eisenhower established the first Law Day in 1958 to mark the nation's commitment to the rule of law. In 1961, Congress issued a joint resolution designating May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day, which is subsequently codified (U.S. Code, Title 36, Section 113). Every president since then has issued a Law Day proclamation on May 1 to celebrate the nation's commitment to the rule of law." The 2012 Law Day theme is No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom. In 2007, the Law Day theme was Judicial Independence Under Attack. During his 2007 Law Day address to MCB members, Dr. Tom Ross, former Superior Court judge and now President of the University of North Carolina, addressed the significant issues then facing our judicial system and the impact a weakened judicial system has on society at large, not just lawyers and their clients. Our courts remain under attack. Funding is at an all time low and subject to further reduction. And without our courts, where do we find our justice and ultimately our freedom? Without a strong judicial system were left with disorder.
This year's Law Day speaker, Mark Curriden, is the author of Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism. The events of the book take place in 1906. There clearly was disorder in Chattanooga in 1906 when a racially charged allegation of rape resulted in an unjust trial. An unjust sentence resulted in attorneys taking unpopular positions that put them and their families' lives at risk. Mr. Curriden's book tracks the legal proceedings that ultimately led to the Supreme Court finding that the Bill of Rights applied to the individual states. Just as importantly, his book leaves you with renewed pride in what we (and I'm using the royal "we") as lawyers do as fighters for the rights of our citizens and the protectors of justice. I'm sure that his remarks at the Law Day luncheon will be just as inspiring. I hope you will attend Law Day on May 3. Get there early and stay late and take advantage of another opportunity to say hello to old colleagues and meet a few new friends. It does make what we do more enjoyable when you know the person on the other side.